Growing up in a time when shaving for women is the norm, it can be difficult to keep one’s kes in accordance to Sikhi. Kaurs may feel alone and isolated with no one as a role model or no one to talk to about their challenges. In attempt to build community and learn from one another, Kaur Life reached out to its readers to find out how they handled the pressure to shave and how they resisted the razor. We hope you’ll find some inspiration and strength from their journeys.
The 16 Kaurs in this article responded to the question, “How did you deal with social pressures while not shaving through middle & high school?”
I tell myself, “Screw the haters!” My body doesn’t exist to please the masses! I have never shaved. Since high school to today (my late 20s) I have worn shorts, skirts, dresses, tank tops with no regard to others’ scornful eye! It has made me internally strong! I love feeling the sun on my legs! I love swimming! I wear shorts on top of my swim-suit and just go for it! Some may judge my hairy legs and pits, but who cares! My friends support me. I love my body, I love the summer, and I love water…no one is going to stop me from enjoying life!
As a footballer I would often wear shorts. When I got into Sikhi and kept my kes, kes in armpits wasn’t difficult to keep but, kes on my legs was hard. Eventually, I got the courage to turn up to practice exposing my hairy legs. For the first 5 mins I was very conscious. After that I realized that none of my peers cared about my life choices and it got much easier! I dealt with taunts sometimes on and off the field from opposing team members but my peers were very supportive and respected my beliefs. So, I guess it’s the company you keep? If your friends can’t be supportive of your life choices (so long as you’re not harming yourself or others) then they’re not your friends…
I should also mention that I was the only Sikh in my school which, had predominantly white students with no knowledge of Sikhi. My friends were white with either no faith in a religion or were of liberal Christian backgrounds. ~ Shanu Jodie Kaur
I stopped believing that I wasn’t beautiful because I didn’t shave. I became happier being me. I noticed that I had more people around me that loved and supported me as me. This gave me more freedom because, these people are there for me not because I looked a certain way.
I’ve always put my Guru first and remembered that bullies who tease me about my kes today, aren’t going to be there (or even matter) tomorrow. What’s more important is my relationship with my Guru. I remember that what’s more important than the teasing or my attempts to “fit in” are the sacrifices our Gurus and Shaheeds made for us. I remember that the Sahibjadey of Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave up their lives willingly and completely of their own choice because they did not want to kill their kes. Bhai Taru Singh Ji didn’t let anyone cut his kes and so his whole scalp was removed. Remembering these shaheeds and remembering that what they did was for the future of Sikhi and for me, the thought of changing for society never enters my mind. I’ve never enjoyed wearing revealing clothes and I was teased because of this too but, I know that my Guru is always with me and my Sikhi comes first before anyone or anything else. Sure there were also Sikh girls I grew up with that cut their Kes but I wanted to follow Sikhi as truly as I could. Their choices were their own. The youth of tomorrow need to remember that it’s not about impressing people – it’s about feeling connected to your Guru, your Sikhi, and your roots. And if we forget these things, it’s a huge shame.
Become more than your appearance: play a sport or join a band. Then people will talk to you about those things instead of your kes.
Stay fit: no one will tease you if you look strong.
Wear sheer stockings with patterns. I used to wear long dresses to school dances.
Boys aren’t worth your time. Wait for a man. A man will love you for who you are.
Honestly, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but the main thing to remember is the reason why you are keeping your kesh. If you keep that in mind, all those social pressures seem completely irrelevant and not important. As an adult, I still keep my kesh and I still find it hard when I meet new people. I know they noticed all of those dark hairs on my neck and face. But, I don’t care. I keep kesh for me and my Guru. (Aint no third person getting in my relationship with MY Guru!) The longer you keep them, the stronger you feel. You realize not a lot of people can do what you do. Eventually other people realize that too and respect you for it. Other people realize, that you look different, and when you find complete confidence in the way you look, you will feel and look the most beautiful person in that room!
Girl, you rock that sleeveless dress like you mean it! You wear that swimming costume like you’re going swimming for the first time! But most importantly, you surround yourself with people who help you be the best person you can be. When that happens, everything becomes so much more easier. And trust me, the only thing that can happen is for it to get easier. So don’t stop!
“I am a SIKH. A human, proud to be a KAUR. Kaur is a powerful word, a word given as an honor.” This is what I consistently told myself throughout middle school. As I face the battle through high school, I face bullying and teasing consistently. I was called the following in middle school: Bear, beard women, ugly faced, hairy monster, and rope hair. I even got dirty looks, despite going to an all-girls school. Moving schools did not help. So you ask, “What helped you still keep your hair?” The truth is praying every day, reciting kirtan, attending Sikh Camps in the summer, and most important of all, seeing other Kaurs with even more hair than myself. I tell myself the following everyday: “Why fit in, when we were born to stand out?” Isn’t that why each human looks different? Even twins do not look exactly alike! True friends are the ones who still talk to me because of who I really am. Even though there are not many people who actually support me, I am still thankful for those who willingly are here for me.
I realized the value of Sikhi and reconnected as a young adult, starting with my nitnem and regular sangat. Shortly after, I decided I want to go back my roots and keep my hair slowly, but still do struggle with facial hair.
Luckily, I benefitted from living in a cold, northeast state where most of the time I could cover myself from head to toe. Thin, cotton pants in the summer covered my legs and sleeved shirts covered my hairy arms. I avoided swimming, wore tights with all my dresses, and made sure that I never got too close to anyone so they would not see the bridge of hair connecting my eyebrows, or the faint ones above my top lip. Only when I entered college was I able to understand that keeping my kesh does not mean I’m ugly, undesirable, or manly, but that I am a woman/human being/mammal and social constructs shouldn’t define how I accept myself. Being surrounded by friends who understood this helped me to feel less self conscious in the outside world.
I never realized it was a social taboo to not shave until I hit grade 10 gym class. I was wearing shorts and some idiotic boys made some stupid comments about my hairy legs. I ignored them but the taunts stuck in my head. That day, I bought a razor from the drug store and shaved my legs.
I had never felt so ashamed of myself as I did at that moment.
And of course, that guilt brought on flashes of Sikh history to my mind.
The sacrifices Sikh women, men, and children made to remain Sikhs, to remain members of the Panth with their bodies and with every inch of hair God had blessed them with.
Did Mai Bhago shave? She led an army into battle and didn’t let some unnatural and unrealistic definition of beauty change her determination. So why should I?
Happily, that was the one and only time I shaved my legs. I wasn’t going to let some moron boys mock me into becoming something I wasn’t.
I never felt self-conscious about my hair after that. I wear clothes that clothe me properly – I have no need to bare my arms, reveal my legs or show off my skin. I can wear dresses – I just choose to wear leggings and a sweater over top.
And I’m married to an amazing man who respects me, my body and my decision to keep my hair. I would never imagine myself demanding him to trim his beard – so why should I impose such a nonsensical demand on myself?
Respecting yourself begins with respecting God’s will and wish.
First, keep sangat with ones that share your beliefs (meaning they don’t cut their hair either). It’s important to keep friendships with everyone, but don’t let the “hype” of looking a certain way derail you. It’s hard, but be confident about yourself. As people will tell you, “Confidence is what makes you beautiful, not clothes, perfectly arched eyebrows, or skinny jeans-. Believe you are beautiful, then you will exude that beauty.”
If you wear a dastaar, wear it knowing that tightness is Guru Sahibs hands on your head constantly blessing you. If you wear a chunni, wear it ever so gracefully that you put all Disney Princesses to shame.
It’s all about the company you keep! Let your friends know the reason you don’t shave/remove any hair from your body. Educate them about Sikhi’s beauty. If they are truly your friends, they will whole-heartedly accept you for who your are, and embrace you for your commitment. As for clothing, I personally believe, Sikh girls (especially Amritdhari) should have their legs covered fully, and they should wear shirts no less than half-sleeve or cover up with proper attire.
I started wearing a dastaar about a year and a half ago… and I only stopped removing my kes one year ago. The main reason was because I wanted Maharaaj to be proud of me internally and externally.
Even though accepting and loving your kes is a small step of love towards Guru Maharaaj I wanted to do it. It was an extreme internal struggle but what I’d say is this…
Who creates the image of a “perfect” hairless woman? Society does.
Who created the image of a beautiful Singni with her all of Ber beautiful kes intact? Our Guru.
The Khalsa is the roop of Akaal Purakh and I think its crucial to remember this.
Remember why we are here, to make Maharaaj proud of us and to make them happy.
I think understanding this finally helped me come to terms with all the kes on my body.
Vaheguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa, Vaheguroo Jee Jee Fateh
Entering middle school physical education was my biggest enemy and still is. Not because I actually had to move but the agony I had to go through in that locker room. Nothing is more awkward than a room full off smooth legs and I am the only hairy one. I did feel pressured to remove it so I could just be one of them and for once and not feel like I’m drowning. After semesters of trial and error, that blissful day finally came. I had a long conversation with myself and I won myself over. If Guru sahib doesn’t see a flaw with why should I? It’s hard, it’s extremely hard but not impossible. You CAN do this. Har madhaan fateh.
I’m in high school now and I don’t have any problem with my kesh. Be confident with your kesh…be proud of those hairy legs. Remember, no one can make you feel down without your consent. And know why you’re keeping your kesh. Have a good reason and you’ll be fine. 🙂
Hi my name is Nikki Kaur and I’m 32 years old. Employed full time. First of all I keep my Kesh (every single one) and I love my Kesh, it is a part of me. I used get haircuts, wax, thread, shave etc. I was up to date with all the fashion trends. At that point of my life, if I saw any hair on my body it was instantly removed and I hated facial hair on other girls. When Guru Ji gave me Sikhi, I started to experience my hair, what it is like to have it up, to have unshorn eyebrows, hairy legs and arms, underarm hair and facial hair – I have hair on my chin, my beard. It’s a gift from Waheguru. In the winter I’m kept nice and warm…it’s cost effective. I can experience sitting up right as my hair is up in a dastar. My advice to all my lovely sisters, look in the mirror, God made you perfect, you don’t need to change for anyone. You should be loved as you are, if you are asked to change than that person does not respect you, for who you are.
Bullying happens in all walks of life, I’m 32 and I have received comments from friends and family that I have “Let myself go,” and that I should “Get it lasered before Amrit,” and I’m depressed.
You need to be strong mentally, confident, if people ask educate them about Sikhi if they carry on teasing you, walk away and say, “I’m not removing it.”
When you are on the Guru’s path you will hear different opinions from people (friends and family) but keep walking. You never know you might be inspiring someone else. And if you need to talk to anyone, look to Guru Ji first and do ardaas, also there’s a lot of Singhnia on Facebook or Sikh helpline or Kaur’s Corner that you can talk it through. Remember a problem shared is a problem solved.
Enjoy your Kesh xx
Most of the photos in this post are from London-based photographer Ben Hopper’s series “Natural Beauty.” It is “a photo series designed to challenge what he described as the societal ‘brainwashing’ done by the beauty industry. Using an eclectic group of models, actresses, designers and friends, Hopper’s pictures highlight a woman’s beauty, her armpit hair, and the timely reminder that those two things are in no way mutually exclusive. ‘As I matured as a person and an artist, I realized I liked [armpit hair],’ Hopper told The Huffington Post. ‘I think it can be a beautiful look.’ ” Read the rest of the article here.
Want more inspiration? Read Kaur Life’s series on shaving here.